Although many might disagree with me, I find lemon curd to be an essential part of the perfect afternoon tea. While many prefer jam or cream on their scones, I love the tart, sweet smoothness of lemon curd. I also use this delicious condiment in tarts, sandwiched between cookies, or (my favorite) spread on bread along with nutella for a dessert panini! Even in the dead of winter, the flavor of lemon curd brings to mind sunshine and fresh spring days. Lemon curd is commonly available in most supermarkets on the jam and condiment aisle (Dickinson is the most popular brand), but I have always preferred to make my own. Homemade curd is relatively quick and easy to make, only requires 4 ingredients and does not contain the extra thickeners and fake dye found in many store bought varieties. However, I am always looking for ways to save time, so I bought a jar of Dickinson’s brand curd and compared it to my favorite homemade recipe.
The recipe I normally used for lemon curd is adapted from a delightful, diminutive cookbook calledThe Little Book of Afternoon Teas by Rosa Mashiter. This is a tiny gem of a cookbook and is essential reading for anyone who loves cooking, eating, or just reading about afternoon tea. Although it doesn’t contain tons of recipes, those that I have tried all turned out wonderfully. The main change I have made to the original recipe, is to use two egg yolks as thickener in place of one whole egg. I find that, when using a whole egg, the white has a tendency to cook too quickly leaving me with lumpy curd that has to be strained before storing. So, without further ado, below is my recipe for homemade lemon curd with a quick comparison to store bought curd.
Homemade Lemon Curd
I purposely used small amounts of ingredients in this recipe because I don’t like to have too much curd around at one time! However, this recipe could easily be doubled if you are hosting a large tea (or just want to indulge your curd craving!).
Makes about 1 cup
Juice and zest from 1 large lemon
1/2 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into slices
2 egg yolks
1. In a medium saucepan, stir together the lemon juice and zest, sugar and butter. Set the pan over medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the butter has melted and sugar is almost all dissolved, about 5 minutes.
2. Place the egg yolks in a small, heat-proof mixing bowl. Pour about half of the hot lemon mixture into the egg yolks, whisking the yolks constantly as you pour. Immediately return the yolk mixture to the pan and continue to cook, whisking, until curd thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove curd from the heat and pour into a clean glass container, straining through a sieve if necessary (sometimes white strands of egg end up in the curd and leave lumps that should be strained out). Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.
There were several major differences between the homemade and jarred curd that were immediately apparent. The homemade curd was pale yellow and had a soft, smooth consistency. The Dickinson’s curd was a brighter shade of yellow and had a thick, gelled texture that made it harder to spread. While both curds had a nice, lemony flavor, I found the store bought to be the sweeter of the two, although it also had a hint of bitter aftertaste. I preferred the balance of tart to sweet in the homemade curd and also thought that it had a smoother flavor and more pleasant texture.
The homemade lemon curd won hands down in one category: price! While the jarred curd cost $4.99 for about 1 1/4 cups, the homemade curd came out to only $1.10 for 1 cup! This probably is not a condiment that most people consume regularly, but that is still a significant savings.
Bottom Line: Making homemade lemon curd does require a little more effort than just opening a jar of store bought, but you will be rewarded with a fresher tasting spread and a significant cost savings.